‘Drone Wars’: making new enemies in Pakistan

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drones1We all had a good laugh last week over the “60 Minutes” infomercial for Amazon — hosted by corporate cheerleader Charlie Rose — which introduced Jeff Bezos’ plan to deliver goods via unmanned drone aircraft.

Whether you had visions of books and other heavy boxes landing on innocent people’s heads — or of children and pets being injured as one of these mini-aircraft came in to make a drop — the idea is obviously bonkers, but it was great for getting people buzzing about Amazon on Facebook and Twitter.

The laughter caught in my throat a few days later, however, when I watched Robert Greenwald’s latest documentary, “Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars” (Brave New Foundation), about the chaos that is being caused in Pakistan by U.S. drone attacks on suspected Al Qaeda operatives.drones

The film shows us the extreme paranoia of living in an area where suspected terrorists might be located — with the possibility of a missile strike at any moment — and the horror of the “collateral damage” of killed innocent bystanders that comes with this sort of no-boots-on-the-ground policy.

It is, of course, a no-risk mission for the CIA to target someone suspicious in Pakistan and kill them with a missile — while sitting in a control room in Washington, D.C. — but the fallout of this policy has been catastrophic. Each new drone strike creates new enemies of America among the families of the victims and the poor neighbors who live in an area that can be subjected to such terror at the whim of a CIA operative many thousands of miles away. Greenwald shows us huge and very emotional anti-drone demonstrations in Islamabad.

On the ground investigative work is extremely challenging, but it seems much safer for the community where the suspect lives — and ultimately much more effective in locating real terrorists — than simply lobbing missiles at those who have been determined to be affiliated with Al Qaeda.

This appears to be another U.S. policy that will wind up hurting us in the long run because it creates so much justified ill will against our country.

Can you imagine what would happen if local police and the F.B.I. used this sort of approach to violent crime in our country? How can we justify it in a country that is supposedly an ally?

Once again, filmmaker Robert Greenwald has dug into a topic that deserves our immediate attention.

Joe Meyers

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